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Phyllis Bestor—Thoughts on Teaching

Phyllis Bestor, a member of the McKay School Alumni Board, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and her master’s degree from BYU. She retired from a successful career of 35 years in education: 10 years of teaching junior high and 21 years of teaching high school in Orem, as well as two years at BYU and some additional teaching in Wisconsin and Colorado. She was a faculty advisor for student government for 12 years and a swimming coach for two. She has been recognized with the Light of Learning Award for the State of Utah and with the Utah Legislature award. Here are some of her thoughts on teaching.

As a teacher of approximately 35 years in elementary, secondary, and college, I have many thoughts and reflections about teaching and its meaning for me. There were times when parents were disgruntled and defensive, but in meetings with them I always kept in mind what I had learned early in my career: that all parents truly love their children and want only the best for them. Therefore, I let them speak their piece, never becoming defensive myself, always patiently listening with an understanding ear to “their side of the story.” Every story does have two sides. As parents and teachers, we need to work together in this education process, and by genuinely sharing we can reach some incredible conclusions about meeting the needs of the students.

I always asked myself this question when planning my lessons: “What can I do that I haven’t done before?” This constant question kept my lessons fresh for me as well as for my class. Consequently, I considered this question asked by my students to be a compliment: “What are we going to do today?” To me that meant they knew we wouldn’t be doing the same old routine.

Since I taught English, I focused primarily on critical thinking, reading, and writing. I always tried to make connections between what we might be reading and my students’ own lives. I loved this quote: “Through the eyes of fictional characters, I have come to see my own world more clearly.” It worked so well in helping my students to understand the WHY of what we might be reading or analyzing, and at the same time it became an excellent vehicle for their own writing about their lives.